Chronic lower back pain is a common experience for many people. Regardless of age or gender, the majority of people experience some type of back pain in their lifetime.
Having chronic back pain leads to limited mobility and the inability to work. Back pain is one of the main reasons why people miss work days.
Question: Are there ways beyond medication and surgery that can help with chronic lower back pain?
Answer: Yes, introducing a yoga practice can be helpful in managing lower back pain.
What Causes Back Pain?
Many things can lead to or cause back pain. Injuries like a fall or sports mishap may result in pulled muscles, strained joints, ruptured spinal disks, damaged ligaments, and more. These are the structural problems that lead to a lack of functionality in your back. Other conditions like arthritis, organ diseases, or other infections can cause inflammation in the back region of the body causing pain and reduced movement.
Everyday actions can create lower back pain, too. If you're generally inactive, the muscles of the back can weaken or even become stiff. When the back muscles lack in strength, they lose some of the stabilizing component of supporting your spine. This creates a compression in the spinal column possibly producing pain. A stiff back may be a result of limited mobility. If you have a job where you sit most of the day or are driving, this body position does not allow for any agility in the spine, particularly in the lower back.
To relieve some of these conditions, engaging in some minimal yoga postures to both strengthen and stretch the muscles of the lower back can be beneficial.
Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
Low Cobra Pose
Active Child's Pose
Standing Forward Fold
Low Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Some yoga postures that help to strengthen the muscles that support the spine are backbends. One particular pose, called Low Cobra Pose, is designed to strengthen the erector muscles of the low back region.
Start the posture by lying on your stomach on your yoga mat. Place your hands underneath your shoulders. Your legs will extend straight behind you. Grip the mat with your fingertips and gently pull yourself forward. This is a very minimal movement. At the same time, point your toes and feel them reach toward the back of the room. By doing this, you are creating length and space along your spinal column as you prepare for the low back bend.
As you continue to tug lightly with your fingers, inhale to create more length in the body. Exhale and engage your core muscles by lifting your bellybutton up toward your spine. This action stabilizes the body to minimize compression in the spine. Inhale again to maintain the length, exhale to engage your abdominal muscles, and gently lift your upper body away from the ground. You do not need to lift very high. You should feel the low back muscles flex. As you are able, hold this low back bend position for 3-5 breaths. Fully relax by lying on your belly. Repeat Low Cobra Pose two more times.
Active Child's Pose (Balasana)
In addition to strengthening the low back, this region of the body also needs to be stretched. This will release any tension that builds up so that you can regain functional movement.
Active Child's Pose adds an element of lengthening in the spine as it releases tightness in the low back
Come to your hands and knees on your yoga mat. Sit back onto your haunches and extend your arms out in front of you. Activate the body by reaching forward. You can hold this position for as long as you'd like. You can add a slight side bend by reaching to ward one side of the mat then the other. This will lengthen the sides of your body while you're in this pose.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
If you need more of a stretch through your entire back body, try Standing Forward Fold. Come to a standing position. Inhale to reach your arms overhead. As you exhale, carefully fold forward until you are able to touch your toes. (You can place a bend in your knees to do that.)
Hold this folded position to create the sensation of hanging forward. This will release tension in your back, but particularly in your lower back.
Allow your arms to dangle down toward the floor and loosen your neck to ease tension in the upper region of your spine. If you hold onto opposite elbows, this creates a heaviness in the upper body which results in more of a low back stretch. This is another position that you can hold for a longer period of time and also repeat to gain the benefits of the yoga position.
Suggested read: Alignment in Yoga
If you experience low back pain related to an injury, health condition, or immobility, try these simple yoga postures to generate strength in your back muscles and a release of tension for added mobility and functionality.